Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) helps increase vagal tone… leading to healthier, happier life… The Natural Way. When it is activated, vagus nerve interfaces with the parasympathetic control of the heart, lungs, and digestive tract – blood pressure stabilises, immune system functions at optimised levels, respiratory rate corrects itself, antibody titers improve significantly, sleep pattern and mood improves, digestive system and natural killer cells (NK lymphocyte cells) function increases and above all, YOUR overall health becomes better.
Vagus nerve, historically called the pneumogastric nerve, meaning wanderer in Latin, is the longest and most complex of the 12 cranial nerves. This CN X nerve runs from the brainstem through the face, neck, thorax, innervates the heart, gastrintestinal tract, the bladder, branching all the way to the pelvis base. Vagus, also known as the Buddha Nerve, regulates health by regulating many of the body functions by facilitating synthesis, release or action of various hormones in the body.
To a degree, we are genetically predisposed to varying levels of vagal tone, but this still doesn’t mean that we cannot change it. Stimulation of vagus nerve plays a key role in the management of a wide range of body, brain and mental health issues.
Although direct vagal nerve stimulation may require an electrical device, howbeit the simplest and the natural way is to increase vagal tone is by eliciting a parasympathetic nervous response.
Why is Vagus nerve beneficial for health?
1/20. Vagus nerve helps you Breathe
The neurotransmitter acetylcholine, released by vagus nerve helps in communication between Brain and Diaphragm. Vagus Nerve gives you the breath for life by stimulating your lungs to breathe. Absence of acetylcholine will stop the Breath in no time.
2/20. Vagus nerve prevents inflammation
A certain amount of inflammation is normal after an injury or infection, but, some people experience an overabundance of inflammatory processes which can trigger multitude of health issues including autoimmune diseases, sepsis, heart attack, stroke, insulin resistance, tumor growth and organ damage.
It is reported that acetylcholine, the principal neurotransmitter of Vagus nerve inhibits tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and interleukins – key players in most inflammation and cell disorders.
3/20. Vagus nerve helps in mood upliftment
Vagus nerve stimulation can be an effective treatment of chronic depression that has failed to respond to drugs. Studies suggest that, electrical stimulation of vagus nerve increases level of norepinephrine, which communicates between nerve cells in parts of brain implicated in mood disorders. In fact, some antidepressants also work by increasing level of norepinephrine in brain.
In 2005 U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved electrical stimulation of vagus nerve as a therapy for drug resistant depressive patients.
4/20. Vagus Nerve maintains Digestive Health
Vagus Nerve helps in food intake, digestion, satiety, maintaining gastrointestinal barrier and perform immune-modulatory functions in the gut. It increases production of gastric acid and digestive juices and maintains gut motility. It also helps stimulates production of gastric intrinsic factor; a glycoprotein that helps in absorption of vitamin B12.
5/20. Vagus nerve boosts testosterone production
Low levels of testosterone can lead to moodiness, weight gain, loss of muscle mass and diminished libido.
What suppresses testosterone levels? Elevated level of stress hormone Cortisol affects the release of testosterone from testicles. Generally an enzyme called 11ßHSD-1, produced within the testicles, can protect testosterone from acute effects of stress.
But, this enzyme cannot neutralize elevated level of cortisol and due to this, freshly produced testosterone hormone gets damaged even before they are released from the testicles.
Vagus nerve stimulation helps check the elevated cortisol in the blood; boosts testosterone production to the required levels.
6/20. Vagus nerve regulates the strength of Memories
Researchers at university of Virginia reported that vagal nerve stimulation releases norepinephrine (a neurotransmitter) into amygdala (part of brain that regulate arousal, memory and feelings associated with emotional stimuli) and activates it. Upon activation, amygdala slots the emotionally activating experiences into long-term memory.
7/20. Vagus nerve initiates body’s relaxation response
Vagus nerve, when stimulated, releases proteins like prolactin, oxytocin and vasopressin, which helps to calm down. People with stronger vagal tone are more likely to recover quickly from stress, injury or illness.
Understanding the pathways of emotional memory can aid clinical treatment of intrusive memories and opens promising treatment for conditions like Alzheimer’s.
8/20. Vagus nerve controls Heart rate and Blood pressure
Vagus nerve acts on heart’s pacemaker by releasing acetylcholine, which slows the pulse and blood pressure.
Many studies have reported the benefits of vagus nerve stimulation in patients with heart failure. In heart failure, the balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system is erratically altered and it leads to sympathetic over activity.
A 2011 study in European Heart Journal reported that repeated vagus stimulation could improve quality of life and the heart’s efficiency to pump blood in patients with heart failure.
Another study published in journal of cardiac failure in 2014 echoed the similar results. After 6 months of vagus stimulation, patients’ heart pumped 4.5% more blood per beat than before.
Multiple studies are underway investigating the effects of vagus nerve stimulation in atrial fibrillation (where heart flutters abnormally) and tachycardia (abnormally increased heart rate) as well.
9/20. Vagus nerve regulates Growth Hormone (GH) secretion
What happens in suppressed Growth Hormone (GH)? Growth hormone (GH), also known as Somatotropin stimulates growth, cell reproduction, and cell regeneration and any imbalance can trigger reduced sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), reduced energy, muscle mass, strength, osteoporosis, impaired concentration, memory loss, baldness and cardiac dysfunction are some of the health concerns associated with Growth Hormone deficiency, in adults.
The growth hormone is secreted from pituitary gland in brain. Its secretion is dependent on hormones secreted by hypothalamus. Recently it is reported that grehlin, the hunger hormone secreted by gastrointestinal tract also induces growth hormone secretion.
The vagus nerve is crucial in the regulation of Growth Hormone (GH) secretion from pituitary gland and it also mediates ghrelin “hunger hormone” dependent growth hormone secretion (Regulatory peptides 2011).
10/20. Vagus nerve controls hormonal regulation of appetite
Hormones, nutrients and neural influence control regulation of feeding behavior.
Hormones like Cholecystokinin (CCK) controls short-term inhibition of food intake and leptin controls long-term feeding behavior and body weight. Both CCK and leptin generate satiety signal via vagus nerve. It is conceivable that malfunction of vagus nerve may result in eating disorders (Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility 2011).
11/20. Vagus Nerve promotes general Kidney and Bladder function
Vagal stimulation increases blood flow to kidneys and helps in better filtration of blood. Vagus nerve helps to excrete sodium via urine by releasing dopamine in kidneys and thereby lowering blood pressure.
12/20. Vagus nerve stimulation helps to regulate one’s own emotions
Studies have shown that high vagal tone is associated with positive emotions and vice versa, which means that changes in habitual emotions can very strongly influence vagal tone.
Positive emotions can in turn promote positive social bonding, which can influence physical health. Many studies have proved the fact that emotional health can influence physical health.
13/20. Vagus nerve stimulation releases vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP)
Vagus nerve stimulation increases level of VIP, which stimulates heart contractility. It also causes dilation of blood vessels in heart, lowers blood pressure, and relaxes muscles of stomach and gall bladder.
14/20. Vagus nerve conveys messages between your Gut and Brain
About 80-85% of nerve fibers in Vagus nerve transfer visceral feelings or gut instincts from gut (enteric nervous system) to the brain and also from brain to the gut, making a feedback loop.
A 2014 Swiss study in Journal of Neuroscience, identified how the emotional intuitions or gut instincts coming up to brain through Vagus nerve are associated with different responses to fear. In the test animals, researchers severed nerve fibers carrying information from gut to brain, but kept the fibers sending information from brain to gut, intact.
The research revealed that the test rats were not that afraid to begin with i.e. having low level of innate fear, but when they became afraid, they had hard time overcoming this fear i.e. they retained the learned fear for longer time.
Research also concluded that optimal vagal tone of vagus nerve helps to come back from stressful situations easily.
In fact, vagal nerve stimulation, an accepted treatment in the alternate medicine, is fast becoming the recommended treatment for epilepsy, severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorders and other anxiety disorders.
15/20. Vagus nerve stimulation can lower and control blood sugar concentrations
A 2015 study in PLOS ONE, showed that vagus nerve stimulation has an anti diabetic effect in animal models. Researchers explained that transcutaneous (through skin) stimulation of vagus nerve triggers release of melatonin hormone in blood.
It is discovered recently that melatonin plays a protective role against type 2 diabetes by regulating glucose metabolism via controlling insulin secretion and leptin production. Also, melatonin has shown to influence food intake and body weight- risk factors for diabetes type 2.
16/20. Vagus nerve stimulation can prevent and treat chronic cluster headaches
Cluster headache is a debilitating pain usually limited to one side of face, which tends to recur over a period of several weeks.
The positive effect of Vagus Nerve stimulation, for headache cure, was first found when a company called Electrocore was experimenting their device on asthmatic patients (by relying on anti-inflammatory action of nerve). Along with Asthma, the device also helped people cure their cluster headaches.
A 2016 study published in the Journal Cephalgia, reported that people suffering from an average of 67.3 cluster headaches in a month experienced around 3.9 fewer attacks/ weeks on an average after using transcutaneous electrical vagal stimulator along with standard treatments.
17/20. Vagus nerve stimulation can be effective in treatment of resistant epilepsy
As reported by researchers in Journal Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery 2015, average seizure reduced by 32% just after 6-9 months of vagal stimulation. Patients reported only mild side effects, which get subsided when stimulation was stopped.
18/20. Vagus nerve normalises the elevated hypothalamic-pitutary-adrenal (HPA) axis
HPA axis is comprised of hypothalamus (Brain), pituitary (Brain) and adrenal glands (present near kidneys) and is known as body’s central stress response system and regulates body processes like digestion, immune system, mood and emotions, libido and energy storage and expenditure.
During stress (emotional, physical, injury or illness) hypothalamus stimulates pituitary gland by releasing a hormone called corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH).
Upon stimulation, pituitary gland releases another hormone called adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH), which is transported in circulation to adrenal glands present near kidneys.
Adrenal glands rapidly synthesize cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine (stress hormones) in response to pituitary stimulation. These hormones initiates fight or flight response in the body.
Activation of HPA axis can induce physical changes in the body, including increased respiratory and heart rate, pain, elevated level of inflammatory mediators and suppression of immune system.
These changes are detected by Vagus nerve, which once stimulated, can inhibit HPA axis by bringing about neuroendocrine homeostasis in the body.
19/20. Estrogen dependent antinociception mechanism is mediated by vagus nerve
It is reported that estrogen modulates visceral (body organs) pain. A study published in Journal of Pain 2014, described the exact mechanism how estrogen processes antinociception (reduction of visceral pain) effects and reported that the mechanism of pain reduction is carried by vagus nerve.
20/20. Vagus nerve controls the glucose lowering effect of insulin; glucose homeostasis
Insulin activates K-ATP channels in arcuate nucleus in the hypothalamus and modulates food intake, energy balance and glucose homeostasis.
Vagus nerve decreases release of agouti-related protein (AgRP), a potent appetite stimulator. Insulin signaling via Vagus nerve reduces glucose production from liver by decreasing enzymes required to produce glucose.
Natural ways of vagus nerve stimulation
Everybody does not have same vagal tone; some people have higher vagal tone, which means that their body can relax faster after stress. High vagal tone is associated with low incidence of diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular diseases, whereas people with low vagal tone are more susceptible to health issues like depression, fatigue, gut issues, food sensitivities, brain fog and chronic inflammatory diseases.
Researches have revealed that natural stimulation of vagus nerve can be used for treating resistant epilepsy, burnout, stress, depression, rheumatoid arthritis etc. and is becoming an alternative to popping in pills.
You can initiate vagus nerve stimulation in two ways. First, the vagus nerve impulse (activation) can flow from the brain to the rest of the body and secondly, from the body to the brain. Read on…
1/31. Rhythmic diaphragmatic vagus nerve breathing
It is no surprise that Diaphragmatic breathing activates parasympathetic nervous system. It makes sense – sympathetic activation leads to fast breathing and parasympathetic response leads to slow relaxed breathing.
Every time you inhale your heart speeds up by activating sympathetic response and suppressing vagus nerve. By holding breath after inhalation you slow this response. Every time you exhale your heart rate slows down due to vagal response. Holding the breath after exhalation facilitates vagal response.
To promote vagal activation you have to gradually lengthen your exhalation and the pause after exhalation in a comfortable manner.
Sine wave Diaphragmatic Breathing dilates bronchioles (tiny pathways leading to alveoli where exchange of gases takes place). Normally Vagus nerve causes constriction of the bronchioles, so by expanding it during diaphragmatic breathing, you actually trigger vagus nerve to bring bronchioles back to normal size.
Vagus nerve stimulation can be achieved by slowing the breathing rhythm from the typical 10-14 breaths per minute to 5-7 breaths per minute.
Also, diaphragmatic vagus nerve breathing increases sensitivity of baroreceptors- receptors present in the neurons of heart and neck, which upon activation lowers blood pressure by stimulating vagus nerve. The more sensitive they are, the more promptly they will reduce blood pressure.
Diaphragmatic breathing, flowing in a sine wave rhythm, is the most natural, easiest and the safest technique of vagus nerve stimulation.
2/31. Singing can help in stimulating vagus nerve
Singing, a form of guided breathing can increase Heart Rate Variability (HRV) – Measure of Vagal Tone.
As vagus nerve innervates vocal cords, any form of singing i.e. humming, hymn singing, mantra chanting and upbeat energetic breathing can mechanically stimulate it.
Singing has reported to increase the level of bonding hormone – oxytocin and helps in fostering social closeness.
Om Chanting, according to a Study in International Journal of Yoga 2011, promotes limbic deactivation; it deactivates areas of brain controlling fear, anger, drives such as hunger, sex and dominance. Researchers found that Om chanting deactivates the same areas that became deactivated by electrical vagal stimulation for treatments of epilepsy and depression.
The soft humming of a song and even Bhramari Pranayama can have a similar effect. To practice Bhramari Pranayama you have to lengthen your exhalation to make mmmm… sound, which further amplifies the parasympathetic response thus helping with vagus nerve stimulation.
3/31. Meditation aids stimulation of vagus nerve
A Study published in Psychological Science, links having kind and compassionate attitude with enhanced vagal tone. Study participants embarked on “loving kindness” meditation for a six-week course.
After the study period, the participants in the study group showed significant improvement in heart rate variability- a measure of vagal tone.
Another study found higher levels of gamma brain waves and thicker cerebral cortices- area associated with higher brain functions, in meditators (Biomed Research International 2015).
Meditation has been seen to modulate astrocytes and glia cells (Brain supporting cells), oxygen supply, blood volume, metabolism, inflammation and even neuroplasticity.
4/31. Breathing exerciser or spirometer
Breathing in and out through resistance offered by an external device may stimulate your vagus nerve better.
As these breathing devices also offer feedback, they may allow you to pace your breathing better.
5/31. Balancing your gut microbiome
According to a 2011 study published in British Journal of Nutrition, a small group of volunteers saw reduction in anxiety and depression after taking probiotics (containing lactobacillus helveticus and bifidobacteriumlongum) for a month.
In 2013, scientist at UCLA reported that consumption of yogurt twice daily is associated with changes in parts of brain that process emotions.
6/31. Cold emersions
Any kind of exercise causes intensity dependent sympathetic stimulation and parasympathetic withdrawal followed by parasympathetic reactivation in the recovery period.
Prompt recovery of parasympathetic response allows faster recovery, which is facilitated by cold water immersion.
A greater parasympathetic activation is observed by exposing the whole body to cold rather than partial or local exposure. Also, whole body emersion has been seen to increase the level of dopamine- hormone related to sensation of well being and pleasure.
To begin with you can just dip your face in cold water and then gradually proceed to cold showers and cold emersions.
7/31. Massage helps stimulating the vagus nerve
Note: Carotid Sinus Massage should only be performed by a Doctor.
Research has shown that massaging at carotid Sinus (located at neck) by digital pressure can stimulate vagus nerve. Carotid sinus massage can abort seizure activity (Journal of Clinical Neuroscience 2014)
Foot massage can also increase vagal modulation and can be used as an adjunct to therapeutic regimen to decrease blood pressure in both healthy and hypertensive patients (Alternative therapies in Health and Medicine 2011)
The benefits of massage are attributed to stimulation of pressure receptors in the brain. These receptors can in turn stimulate the vagus nerve.
Massage has been found to lessen stress, depression, anxiety, migraine, pain associated with fibromyalgia, improve immune functions. Regular massages can relieve symptoms of reflux in babies and lowers muscle tension.
8/31. Yoga asana for vagus nerve stimulation
Yoga asana techniques increase PNS tone by stimulating vagal afferents directly. Studies have shown a positive correlation between practicing yoga postures and acute increase in thalamic GABA levels. Increased GABA levels are mainly mediated by the ability of yoga practices to increase vagal tone.
Studies have documented greater vagal stimulation with yoga practices like pranayama, chakra yoga and kundalini yoga as compared to other forms of exercise.
Yoga practices have been shown to reduce inappropriate activation of autonomic nervous system as seen in IBS patients. Clinical trials on IBS patients have found sympathetic over activity as the main contributing factor. Yoga, by increasing PNS reactivity, proved to be a remedial therapy for IBS patients (Evidence based Complementary and Alternative Therapy 2015).
9/31. Mantra/ Prayer repetition can help
Studies have shown that prayer in form of rosary recitation or recitation of yoga mantra enhances heart rate variability and baroreflex sensitivity by slowing down respiration to about 6-breaths/minute, thereby stimulating vagus nerve (British Medical Journal 2001).
Regardless of religious traditions or context of beliefs, prayer shows drops in inflammatory cytokines, elevation in anti-inflammatory cytokines, increase in HRV, innate healing and increase in vagal tone.
10/31. Laughter is truly the best medicine
Extended form of laughter as seen in laughter yoga and laughter wellness provides longer exhalation and thereby stimulating vagus nerve.
Laughter initially stimulates catecholamine production, which in turn, increases heart rate and blood pressure. This phase is immediately followed by PNS activation, which generates a state of systemic relaxation.
Researchers have reported that laughter reduces neuroendocrine and stress related hormones by stimulating vagus nerve.
The transient effect of laughter therapy has been effective in reducing anxiety and stress in breast cancer patients (evidence based complementary and alternative therapy 2015).
It has been found useful for insomnia, pain relief and improving immunity, pulmonary function and general health in elderly people.
11/31. Relaxation techniques work
Effect of various relaxation techniques on increasing cardiac parasympathetic tone has already been documented by many studies.
The relaxation response can be achieved through number of techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, deep relaxation, benson relaxation, selection relaxation, autogenic training and guided imagery. These techniques are now recommended for treating depression, anxiety, stress, pain and distress.
Relaxation techniques have shown to reduce heart rate, increase heart rate variability, exercise tolerance and HDL cholesterol in patients with heart diseases and it has become an important ingredient in cardiac rehabilitation along with exercise and pshyoeducation (European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation 2005).
12/31. Fiddle with your upper lip
Another cool but goofy method that helps in stimulating the vagus nerve is producing “blub blub” sound with lips (usually done by kids). This technique is only supported by anecdotal evidence from people working with horses or kids.
- It stimulates PNS fibers innervating lips.
- Triggers positive emotions associated with feeding and nursing.
- Stimulates salivation, which is mainly controlled by vagus nerve.
13/31. Have constructive emotions and affirmations
Having constructive emotions and affirmations can directly stimulate vagus nerve by lowering cardiovascular reactivity.
Any kind of positive feeling like love, gratitude, contentment and tranquility can arouse vagus nerve.
Following methods can help to recondition habit patterns and promote positive emotions:
- Light therapy.
- Laughter therapy.
- Spending time in nature.
- Giving thanks for your blessings.
- Creative and affirmative visualizations.
- Meditation and diaphragmatic sine wave breathing.
14/31. Periodic fasting can help
Role of vagus nerve is to regulate energy balance and energy content in the body. During fasting, signals related to hunger, decline of blood sugar or reduction of mechanical/ chemical signals from alimentary canal are transmitted to brain via hepatic (liver) vagus afferents.
Vagus nerve upon activation regulates energy conservation and metabolism. Intermittent fasting or reducing calories can be an option for improving vagal tone, as it has shown to increase heart rate variability, in animal studies.
15/31. Laying on the right side
Laying on right ride leads to highest vagal stimulation. Along with this, both right and left prone positions can also modulate vagal tone, especially for those who have low vagal modulation in supine. Laying supine leads to lowest vagus nerve stimulation (Circulation Journal 2008).
16/31. Practice Tai Chi
Tai Chi is a Traditional Chinese callisthenic exercise, which involves aerobic training and diaphragmatic breathing.
Studies have shown that Tai chai enhances heart rate variability and can tilt the sympathovagal balance towards reduced sympathetic modulation.
17/31. Practice mild physical exercises
Mild physical exercise can stimulate vagus nerve, as it has shown to increase gastric motility and enhances the ability of stomach to process food. (The Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine 2010)
Exercise releases large amounts of neurotransmitter GABA (CNS inhibitor) in the brain, which instantly relaxes vagus nerve by inhibiting stress and mood swings.
High intensity interval training is more effective than repetitive sprints in improving post exercise vagus nerve function (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2008)
Aerobic exercise can improve post exercise vagal reactivation (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2015). Regular aerobic training of moderate volume and intensity for a minimum of 3 months is necessary to ensure long term effects.
18/31. Qigong helps increase vagal tone
Qigong is an ancient Chinese health care system that incorporates various movements, postures, breathing techniques and focused attention.
Researchers have speculated that meditation, breath work (diaphragmatic sine wave breathing) and structured body movements could stimulate PNS (Parasympathetic nervous system) and endocrine system.
Numerous studies have shown positive effect of Qigong on mood regulation, enhancing cardiac output, oxygen consumption, diabetes, fibromyalgia, cancer and movement disorders (BMC Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2014).
19/31. Gargling helps
Vagus nerve innervates the muscles in the back of your throat that help you to gargle. Gargling with water contract these muscles and stimulates vagus nerve, which helps to bring blood flow to the gut and maintains its motility. It is advisable to gargle several times a day for several weeks to ensure the desired effect.
20/31. Stimulate gag reflex
You can stimulate gag reflex by using sterile tongue depressors. You should not go too far into your throat as it may cause injury.
Vagus nerve gets stimulated if your eyes begin to tear up while stimulating gag reflex. Again, it may take several weeks to strengthen vagal tone and gut brain axis by this method.
21/31. Acupuncture and acupressure helps increase vagal tone
Studies have shown that auricular (ear) acupuncture plays a role in vagus nerve stimulation of cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous and gastrointestinal system. It is also proposed to prevent certain neuro-degenerative diseases by vagal regulation.
22/31. Oxytocin can stimulate vagus nerve
Oxytocin is a neuropeptide produced by hypothalamus that regulates feel good feeling. It has been proved that peripheral administration of Oxytocin suppresses food intake and weight gain by activating vagal nerve fibers and thereby ameliorates obesity.
23/31. Zinc can help stimulate vagus nerve
Zinc is essential for many physiological functions, such as growth, perception of taste, immune function, and reproduction. Oral administration of zinc may help in stimulating vagal afferents.
24/31. Healthy Serotonin levels can help
Serotonin intake can increase vagal activity, mediated by serotonin receptors. You can take dietary supplements to increase your serotonin levels.
Serotonin the natural “feel good hormone” helps to regulate mood, appetite, temperature, memory, endocrine functions, sleep, learning, heart and muscle function.
25/31. Hormone cholecystokinin (CCK)
CCK, a digestive hormone that suppresses appetite naturally, delivers satiety signal to brain via vagus nerve. Foods rich in soluble fibre (beans, guar gum), proteins (meat, eggs, fish, soy) and fats (olive oil) are potent CCK inducers.
26/31. Gut hormone glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1)
GLP-1, hormone mainly secreted by gut, promotes satiety and slows gastric emptying by stimulating vagus nerve.
Supplementation of diet with probiotics, high fiber diet, resistant starch, dairy products, maize starch, nutritional supplement like L-arginine and glutamine can enhance GLP-1 secretion and can thereby stimulate vagus nerve.
27/31. Pancreatic polypeptide (PPY)
PPY is a satiety hormone secreted by pancreas, it directly activates vagal nerve. PPY regulates appetite by reducing food intake and slowing gastric emptying. It also helps to ameliorate anxiety, promotes weight management, gastric motility and increases energy expenditure.
Having nuts, seeds, high quality protein meal, intermittent fasting and regular exercise can increase pancreatic polypeptide secretion, which can directly activate vagus nerve.
28/31. Coughing or contracting stomach muscles
Both coughing and contracting stomach muscles as if to bear down to have bowel movement are a type of valsalva manoeuvre- forceful exhalation against a closed airway.
Valsalva maneuver can greatly increase pressure in the chest cavity, which can directly stimulate parasympathetic nervous system thereby help stimulating vagus nerve.
29/31. Eating fish can increase Vagal Tone
Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) in fish and supplemented fish oil can increase HRV (Heart Rate Viability) by modulating vagal tone.
American heart association recommends 1g/d of EPA and DHA for prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases.
30/31. Biofeedback can help stimulate vagus nerve
Heart rate variability-biofeedback is a new type of biofeedback technique. In this technique, firstly the resonant frequency (generally 6 breaths/minute but can vary from person to person) of an individual is established.
Resonant frequency is the respiratory rate at which the heart rate variability is the greatest, which is measured by biofeedback instruments. Then the subject is asked to breathe fully at the resonant frequency for a desired amount of time.
Breathing at resonant frequency increases vagal activity by increasing heart rate variability and by increasing baroreflex sensitivity.
31/31. Hypnosis can help stimulate Vagus Nerve
Hypnosis or hypnotherapy is a therapeutic technique in which a practitioner induces a trance state that resembles sleep and is characterized by state of heightened responsiveness to suggestion.
Hypnotherapy has been used to block pain, treat anxiety, depression, sleep disorders and hot flashes during menopause. The effects of hypnosis are mainly mediated through vagus nerve.
Hand Mudras for Vagus Nerve Stimulation
Our hands and tips of fingers have a number of nerves. In Vedic scripture, each of these fingers is representative of following-
1/5. Thumb- Fire/ Supreme Soul
2/5. Index Finger- Air/ Atma or Individual Soul
3/5. Middle Finger- Space/ purity and peace.
4/5. Ring Finger- Earth/ Activity or passion
5/5. Little Finger- Water/ Tamas or inertia
These nerves are connected directly to brain and to different parts of the body. For this reason, the different hand mudras are believed to be beneficial for health in general and for stimulating the vagus nerve in particular.
These mudras are believed to heal us from various illnesses. Shunya mudra for ear ache, Apan Mudra for UTIs, Mritsanjeevani Mudra for Heart Attack are some of the common ailments, which these mudras are believed to cure.
It should be noted that the Vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve and passes through most of the vital organs and this nerve is associated with our ability to relax and rest, regulate breathing and heart rate. Research has shown that when the ventral vagus nerve along the front body is activated, there is a feeling of safety and calm.
Primary 3 Hand Mudras. Though there are hundreds of hand mudras, a few of these are particularly good for stimulating the vagus nerve…
1/3. The Namaste Mudra
Also called as the Prana Mudra, Prayer Mudra or Anjali Mudra, this is the mudra in which a person is required to press both hand palms against one another with the thumbs pressed against breastbone. When this is pressed against the ventral vagal nerve coming from the breastbone, it is believed the mudra activates the said nerve. With this kind of stimulation, there is a direct activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes and pacifies you, potentially taking you into a meditative state.
2/3. Padma Mudra
Padma Mudra is also called the lotus mudra. In this the both hands are made into a lotus flower with the thumbs and the little fingers of both hands touching each other across their full length and rest of the fingers being outstretched to form into a lotus. This pose is believed to be helpful in stimulating the vagus nerve and the digestive system.
3/3. Gyan Mudra
This is the one in which index finger touches the tip of thumb. This is believed to activate and regulate the endocrine and pitutary glands. This brings peace, relief from stress and anxiety. For this reason it is believed to stimulate the vagus nerve.
Our ancient scriptures have mentioned many different types of mudras which have positive bearing on our health in many respects and it would not be surprising to find some of these having stimulating effect on vagus nerve.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation has immense Body-Breath-Mind benefits… Traditional healing practices always include vagus nerve stimulation as part of complete wellness rehabilitation. The Western medicine, slowly but surely is realizing the wisdom of these ancient and natural therapies.